Falls are the number one cause of injury, hospital visits due to trauma, and death from an injury among people age 65 and older. It is estimated that one in three older adults falls each year. Falls among older adults is a serious issue, but research has shown that many fall risks can be reduced.*
What are the most common reasons that seniors fall?
- Hips and legs can become weaker, making it harder to stand or walk
- Poor posture or changes to spinal structures make it more difficult to stand erect
- Ability to lift feet decreases, which can lead to stumbles
- Many medications interact which causes dizziness or decreases balance
- Reaction time slows with age
- Low blood pressure can lead to light-headedness which can increase the risk of falling
- Vision may decrease which can lead to not seeing tripping hazards as clearly
Just because you age, you don’t have to fall. Falling does not have to be the result of aging!
Strategies to help reduce falls
Balance Training and Physical Mobility
Know your medical history
- Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention
- Consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen
- With medical consent, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi
- These will improve strength, balance, coordination and flexibility
- Wear sensible shoes – properly fitted with nonskid soles
- High heels, floppy slippers, sandals and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall
- Avoid walking in your stocking feet
Remove home hazards
- What medications are you taking?
- What are their side effects?
- Are you on any blood thinners?
- If so, you need to be more vigilant in seeking medical attention in the event of a fall
- What health conditions do you have?
- If you have diabetes, neuropathy can reduce the sensation in your feet, which can increase your fall risk
- Certain ear disorders/conditions can cause your balance to be impaired
- Arthritis can cause joint stiffness
Keep your house brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are difficult to see
- Take a look around each room in your home
- Remove clutter from the floor
- Keep furniture out of high-traffic areas
- Secure loose rugs with double-edged tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing – or remove them altogether
- Repair loose floorboards or loose carpeting
- Try to avoid putting frequently used items on high shelves
- Clean up any spilled liquid immediately
- Use nonslip mats in your tub or shower
Use assistive devices
- Use nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways
- Make sure you have a clear path to light switches
- Always turn on lights before going up or down stairs
- Keep a flashlight handy
- Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. If so, use it.
- Make sure hand rails are installed on all stairways
- Consider a raised toilet seat with armrests
- Install grab bars in the shower or tub
- Use a shower chair if standing is difficult – along with a hand-held shower nozzle – allows for a “sit down” shower
If the cost of making modifications prohibits you from taking action necessary to promote fall prevention, most communities have organization that can help. Church groups, United Way, or Senior Centers are good resources.
Don’t become a statistic! Practice safety habits!
For more information visit ThinkFirst.org
*Fall Prevention Center of Excellence. stopfalls.org
**Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention